Why are we also in danger every hour? I affirm, brethren, by the boasting in you which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily. If from human motives I fought with wild beasts at Ephesus, what does it profit me? If the dead are not raised, let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.
–1 Corinthians 15:30-32 (NASB)
It would be less frustrating if the Almighty’s face weren’t hidden. Everything would be clear and our decisions easy. We’d certainly sleep better at night. But that’s not our challenge, that’s not our opportunity for growth.
We need to rouse ourselves now, to move forward with faith and optimism, recognizing that even though He may be hidden, it’s all in His hands. And on Purim, we can take a small drink (emphasis on small), just to help ease our anxieties and inhibitions and clear the path to this recognition.
We pray that this be the year where the whole Jewish people comes to recognize the Almighty’s presence and where the mask of darkness is removed from our world.
“When God Hides His Face”
I was recently challenged to do the following:
James..there’s a lot you could write to us about glorifying G-d with all our soul/nephesh (Kiddush Hashem) in life now and in the face of death.
That’s no small request, especially since I don’t always know how to glorify God when my soul feels like it’s been run over by a tank.
The world’s a pretty horrible place. The most recent atrocity is the terrorist attack in Nice, France, and particularly how Europe is treating a terrorist attack against non-Jews vs. how it normally responds when Palestinian Arabs murder Israeli Jews.
As I said in my previous blog post, I get tired. I get tired of all the woe and grief in the world. I get tired of arguing with the religious pundits. I get tired of arguing with the social justice warriors (SJW), particularly the religious ones.
I want to go back to bed and pull the covers up over my eyes.
But that’s hardly blessing God in the face of adversity, in the face of a faithless and morally corrupt world, in the face of all the bad things and then the worse things that are going to happen between now and the return of Messiah.
I think a common problem, as least as I understand it, in blessing God during adversity is that we aren’t always focused on God, we’re focused on the adversity.
OK, to be fair, when someone steps on your toes, it hurts and you yell “Ouch!” Pretty hard not to pay attention to the pain.
But after the momentary “ouch,” and once we regain our composure, we can rededicate our focus on God once more.
Of course, it’s easier to do that if our focus on God was there before the “ouch”.
That’s right. The secret to focusing on God while under duress is to focus on God before trouble begins and to make it a habit.
That’s one of the things I like about observant Judaism. There’s a blessing and a ritual for everything. I know many Christians see that as a straight-jacket, but it can also be very organizing. If you develop a discipline of praying to God and blessing Him at regular and specific times of day, chances are God will be a lot nearer at hand when the world blows up in your face than if you were just praying to God whenever you felt like it (which for many Christians, usually means praying whenever you want something or when you feel an “ouch”).
Although the majority of Jews living in Israel are secular, there is something about the Jews in the Holy Land. Whether they choose to acknowledge it or not, God is particularly close to Jews in Israel, Jews who have returned to the Land in response to prophesy.
Like Paul, we have our hope in the resurrection, but like Paul, we should always be aware of the nearness of trouble, pain, and death. If we lose our hope in God, we’ve lost everything, so indeed, let us “party hardy,” because nothing really matters in the long run. We might as well be wasting our time playing Pokémon Go, because life and death, faith and God don’t mean anything.
I previously said that in response to an SJW, the most important thing to me was playing with my grandchildren, celebrating life rather than wallowing in oppression, victimhood, and sorrow.
However, that’s just one small expression of what’s really, really important. Drawing nearer to God. If we start doing that now and do it everyday, we will already be closer to God when trouble comes. If we wait until trouble and pain comes, it may become too hard to focus our attention on Him, especially if we’re yelling “Ouch!” all the time.
In principle, it’s not that hard. Read the Bible every day. Set aside fixed times of prayer. Perform some sort of devotional on a daily basis. Be aware of opportunities to do good in your community every day and perform at least one mitzvah (commandment) each day, always with an awareness of the God who is over your head.
Is it easy?
No. If it were, we’d all do it. If it were, I probably wouldn’t complain so often and give in to bad impulses to engage intractable people on social media.
Oh, and I did another minor Facebook “purge” this morning, just for the sake of my peace of mind. I like being exposed to a variety of opinions, but I draw the line at hostility and self-righteousness.
If we wake up being thankful to God for our lives and go to sleep asking for His protection, and if we regularly “touch base” with Him during the day, on the day of woe, He will already be our old companion.
The opinions of men, their transitory social imperatives, their fluid and relative morality, this is like sand on the beach, there one day and washed back out into the ocean the next. Only God is our rock and our deliverer, both from the world and from the darkest parts of our own souls.
If I were better at this, I’m sure my soul wouldn’t have such large dark parts. But the arm of God is not too short to save, even someone like me.